Audio

Krista Franklin vs. Time Travel

November 14, 2017

Danez Smith: She is the author of a new chapbook, “Death By Sex Machine” by Sibling Rivalry Press, Franny Choi.

Franny Choi: And they're the author of the new poetry collection, “Don’t Call Us Dead” by Graywolf Press, Danez Smith. 

Danez Smith: And welcome to VS, the podcast where poets confront the ideas that move them.

Franny Choi: Presented by the Poetry Foundation and Postloudness. 

Danez Smith: (BEATBOXING)

Franny Choi: (SINGING) Shame this plug, we have no shame….

Danez Smith: (SINGING) No shaaaaame…. capitalism! Buy our books. (LAUGHING) How are you doing, Franny?

Franny Choi: I’m doing good, how are you? What’s on your mind today?

Danez Smith: I’m doing good. I'm just super excited to dive into this conversation with Krista Franklin who I have, like, such, like, a big artist and human crush on. 

Franny Choi: Oh my god.

Danez Smith: Just, like, an amazing woman, who makes me want to know all her time travel secrets.

Franny Choi: Yes! She's a magical, magical creator of magic.

Danez Smith: Yeah! 

Franny Choi: A wizard I think is the proper term? We talk a lot in this interview about some of the strange places that Krista explores in her writing, across space-time, across the universe, into the past and into the future as well. So I'm wondering…

Danez Smith: OK. What’s you wondering?

Franny Choi: I have some wonderings.

Danez Smith: You’ve got some wonders?

Franny Choi: I’ve got some wonders.

Danez Smith: You’ve got some Wonder Bread?

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) Don’t call me…

Danez Smith: … a sandwich? 

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) Full of holes.

Danez Smith: Hmm…

Franny Choi: Gluten formations.

Danez Smith: Oh, yes. What’s you wondering?

Franny Choi: This is a common ice-breaking question, right? Like, if you could time travel, where in the past would you time travel to? 

Danez Smith: Complicated for people of color.

Franny Choi: Yes. Complicated for people of color. Yes. And so my question is: if you could time travel, where in the future would you go. 

Danez Smith: Oh, I see what you did there! 

Franny Choi: When slash where.

Danez Smith: Where in the future…. OK. I would like to go to……. 10 years after, like, the abolishing of the police and prisons. 

Franny Choi: Wow, 10 years?

Danez Smith: After that. Yeah.

Franny Choi: That's not that much time after. 

Danez Smith: I mean, I would kind of like to see figuring it out. 

Franny Choi: Hmmm!

Danez Smith: You know, I would like to kind of see, like, humans post-agreement to not incarcerate and, like, terrorize in that particular kind of way. I would like to see… sort of, like, the fumblings of, like, you know, my great-great-great-grandkids figuring it out. 

Franny Choi: Uh-huh, you want to see the behind the scenes, behind the music….

Danez Smith: Yeah. I don't want to see, like, the, like, timeskip in the movie where it's, like…

Franny Choi: And now everyone’s happy! 

Danez Smith: Yeah, everybody’s happy. I want to see, like, well now that I can't arrest you. I guess I have to talk… to you? (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Franny Choi: We need to have a conversation as peers? 

Danez Smith: Well, how about you, where do you want to go?

Franny Choi: I feel like this is a very on-brand response. I'm considering poems that I've been writing, but I think I want to see the future where humans and artificially intelligent beings are really negotiating their relationship. 

Danez Smith: Okay.

Franny Choi: You know? Like, us figuring out together how it's going to work. I like that we are both... We both want to see people doing work, you know what I mean?

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Franny Choi: Doing the good, solid work of relationship building.

Danez Smith: Either that or I just want to, like, go see the last season of Game of Thrones, you know?

Franny Choi: Yeah!

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: For sure, for sure. 

Danez Smith: Either utopia, or, like, whenever they bring back with the McRib. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) Utopia by any other name.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) It’s not really utopia if there’s no McRibs, you know. That’s what I think. Or I just want to time travel to this conversation with Krista Franklin. 

Franny Choi: Oh god, yeah.

Danez Smith: So Krista Franklin is the recipient of the Propeller Fund and the Albert P. Weisman Award and has held residencies at A Studio In The Woods, Cave Canem and the University of Chicago Arts and Public Life Initiative. Her poems and visual art have been published in Poetry Magazine, Black Camera, Copper Nickel, Callaloo, Vinyl, BOMB Magazine and Encyclopedia, Vol. F-K. Willow Books published “Study of Love & Black Body,” her chapbook of poems in 2012, Franklin's work has been exhibited nationally and was featured on 20th century's Fox's Empire, Season 2. She is the co-curator of the Chicago citywide poetry and art initiative, EKPHEST: A Festival of Art + Word, and 2nd Sun Salon, a community meeting space for writers, visual and performance artists, musicians and scholars. She holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts – Book & Paper from Columbia College Chicago and she is just the all around... mix shit.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: Se's the mix shit, she has over 1 million people slayed, you hear me?

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: So without further ado, let’s get it poppin’ for Krista!

Franny Choi: Pop-pop-pop!

Danez Smith: Poppin’!

(MUSIC)

Franny Choi: We’re really excited to have Krista Franklin in the studio with us today, Krista, how are you doing?

Krista Franklin: I’m doing ok.

Franny Choi: Thanks so much for coming in. What's on your mind these days?

Krista Franklin: Hmm. I don’t really know.

Danez Smith: That was straight to the point. (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: I was like, we’re gonna jump right in.

Franny Choi: Tell us about your day, tell us about what’s been going on today.

Krista Franklin: Hmm, today, what did I do today? I didn't do a whole lot. I wrote. I’ve been doing these morning writings towards a larger project I'm developing, currently. So I did write this morning, which was good and I was really ambitious, I was, like, I'm going to write and then I'm going to work on this sculpture that I'm developing for a show next weekend, and I was trying to do all of this in, like, two hours.

Danez Smith: Oooh, so ambitious. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: I got ready, started getting dressed and I was like… What am I doing? You're just going to this car and going to this podcast. I feel like I shouldn’t be wearing these things. 

Franny Choi: I feel like, from not being unconscious to, like, moisturizing my body, that's, like, two hours.

Krista Franklin: It’s a lot!

Danez Smith: Hmm.

Franny Choi: Especially in the morning.

Krista Franklin: It takes a lot of time!

Danez Smith: Mornings take time.

Krista Franklin: Actually, moisturizing is really time-consuming.

Danez Smith: If you make it time-consuming, which...you should.

Krista Franklin: Everybody should.

Franny Choi: Just one, like, square inch at a time.

Danez Smith: Hmmm. It’s layers, honey. It’s layers. You need a moisturizing body wash, followed by lotion, followed by oil. 

Franny Choi: Yes!

Krista Franklin: I do oil and then lotion. I do the body wash, sometimes I do a soap on top of the body wash… 

Franny Choi: Soap on top of body wash?

Krista Franklin: Yeah.

Danez Smith: Hmmm.

Franny Choi: Interesting. Why?

Krista Franklin: I like the different fragrances.

Danez Smith: Oh, ok!

Krista Franklin: The combination of them. Sometimes I put on two different kinds of lotion. 

Danez Smith: What!?

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: You are a warrior against ash. (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: I don’t want that ash. Also I want really soft skin, so… 

Danez Smith: So you said a couple of things when you talked about your morning that, like, pinpoint three things I want to talk about. One, so you are an interdisciplinary artist, you look at the world and say, I’m gonna make. Have you always read in the morning, different times of the day, are they good for different types of making for you?

Krista Franklin: That's a good question. I mean, I I tend to just try to write in the morning these day, because my brain is not racing on other shit. So you know, it’s, like, I can focus my energy on just that act of writing and focusing on that art of writing. But you know, as far as the visual art is concerned, that could be any time of day. You know? When the light is best. I used to be a writer at night, but I can't seem to... you know, At night now, I just want to be, like, in some kind of altered state.

Danez Smith: Amen.

Krista Franklin: You know, I want to have drinks or whatever, and just watch TV, and you know, zone out. Yeah.

Franny Choi: Do you... Do you ever write or make things in an altered state? Like, do you….

Krista Franklin: Oh yeah. I’ve done many of that. 

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) I was about to say, that’s why I write at night…

Krista Franklin: Yeah, absolutely.

Franny Choi: So that I can…

Krista Franklin: Hmm, let’s see. I used to do it a lot more when I was younger. I can still make work, like, visual work, but writing is harder because I’ll read it the next day and I’m like, girl… (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: What were you talking about! 

Franny Choi: But in the moment you're, like, I'm...I just entered a whole new kind of poetry.

Danez Smith: Oh yeah! Whiskey have you believing a lot of things. About yourself, about your work…

Krista Franklin: It will. It’s so funny because I was writing this morning about altered states. You know? About, like, how when I was a teenager I didn't indulge in anything, you know, and I was straight edge, and... So it's interesting that you asked me that question. Because I’ve been thinking about that. Altered states.

Danez Smith: Can you.. I know, I would hold my projects close to the breasts too. Is there anything that you could share about the larger project that you are working towards? What questions are coming up for you…

Krista Franklin: Yeah. I mean, you know, for a long time I've been wanting to write what I consider to be a mytho-memoir.

Danez Smith: A mytho-memoir?

Krista Franklin: Yeah. You know, because, I don’t necessarily believe in... My memory's really bad. (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: So, when people write memoirs, you know, and I’ve been doing a little research in general about memoirs in general, you know, it's half lie, half true.

Danez Smith: Oh, yeah.

Krista Franklin: You know what I mean? Like, nobody remembers the details of some conversation that they had when they were three. And then… And also, you know, memory is so slippery, so, you know, what you think may have happened didn't actually happen, you know. So I wanted to approach that process of writing about parts of my life with a lot of permission. You know what I mean? And just allowing myself to tell stories…

Danez Smith: Uh-huh.

Krista Franklin: You know, about what I thought happened in my life. So I'm writing this longer-form prose piece, which could be described as a memoir. Just really looking at my family, on my mother’s side, which is a theme that comes up a lot in my work, but really just delving deep into it.

Danez Smith: And is that family all in Ohio where you grew up?

Krista Franklin: All of them are in Ohio. So I’ve been doing that. I’ve been working on that.

Danez Smith: Amen! And not necessarily the process, but I always wonder for multidisciplinary artists; how is the texture of the rest of your life maybe different when different mediums are demanding more time, like... Do you find yourself thinking and loving and moving differently when you're doing more visual art as opposed to more writing?

Krista Franklin: You know, I feel like since I've been doing more writing, I’ve been writing again, which, I started I think in May. 

Danez Smith: Hmmm.

Krista Franklin: I am more patient and thoughtful. You know like, I'm doing more thinking in real clear ways, you know, then when I'm just making visual art. You know, and I talk about this a lot with people, especially with visual artists. In particular visual artists who don't read a lot or who don't associate with writers, you know, on a regular basis. Like, y’all wet… (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) 

Krista Franklin: Like they kind of shallow and just, like, kind of insipid, and you're just kind of, like, around them, like, this is all you are thinking about? That’s crazy.

Danez Smith: Hmmmm.

Franny Choi: Hmmm.

Krista Franklin: I just feel like there's a kind of depth that goes along with the process of writing, like you have to get still, you have to be reflective, you know? In a different kind of way than I think you have to when you're making visual art. You know, at least for me. 

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Krista Franklin: So I've been much more attentive, you know, because as a writer you're, like, always observing. 

Danez Smith: Yeah.

Krista Franklin: So I've been much more attentive to these steps of my life, as well as the steps of other people's lives, and really being much more…. not critical, but just reflective.

Franny Choi: What do you mean by the steps of your life and other people’s lives? 

Krista Franklin: Choices that people make, you know, judgments that people make about other people, based on something that happened or something that they did, it’s like... Making these sweeping generalizations, you know what I mean, about certain people in their lives, who they are, what they think, and…. They ain’t shit and they ain’t this and they ain’t that, you know what I mean? It’s, like, really? Like that person made one misstep. That’s a moment of their life and they’ve been reduced to, like, what. You know what I mean? I’ve just been really very suspicious these days of people who start to make these sweeping kind of statements.

Franny Choi: Do you feel that you use writing to approach different kinds of questions than you might use visual art or other medium?

Krista Franklin: I don't have an answer to that I don’t think. Maybe. You know, but I think a lot of the writing that I do is about me. So, you know, it's very Frida Kahlo-esque. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: Uh-huh! (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: The writing that I do is really about, like, how many different ways can I look in the mirror? How deeply can I look into the mirror. So... yeah, the writing is more, like, questions about me. Or questions about my family, or questions about... you know, spaces of origin, and also about the world, about politics, about race, gender, you know, what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a black woman, you know. And my visual art is about that too, but just it's broader. 

Franny Choi: It sounds from some of the things that you're saying that maybe writing is a place to ask questions, and kind of let even, like, uncertainty kind of, like, be itself.

Krista Franklin: Oh, yeah. The older I get, the more of an advocate for uncertainty I become. 

Danez Smith: Hmm.

Franny Choi: Hmm.

Krista Franklin: You know, I can’t stand… when people are, like, I'm an expert or some shit. No, you’re not. 

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: No, you’re not. And the minute that you think that you are, is when the world comes up and pulls the rug out from under you, and you realize you actually know nothing. 

Danez Smith: Hmm.

Krista Franklin: You know what I mean? So the older I get, the more I am committed to this space of not knowing, as frightful as it is. You know? I'm trying to be more...mindful about being in that space all the time.

Danez Smith: Also, I’ve been sitting over here, thinking about the relationship between writing and visual art. And I think what it also maybe it does, is I think...We all agree upon the language that we use to touch writing, in a way, right, if we all speak the same tongue, we're all kind of approaching English knowing the same things about English. I think that's what you mentioned about being broader, I think, we all come to our broader languages too, right? So, like, we can all touch visual art in a different way. Because the language that that piece speaks, isn't necessarily as clear, as agreed upon of a code as we understand too. So, you know, like, if you write a sentence, I know what you said because you wrote a sentence, but we all look at a piece of visual art, we can all say it's saying three different things. 

Krista Franklin: Right.

Danez Smith: The poet or the prose writer is able to say: this is what I mean, and then we can still derive whatever we want from that, there's magic to that too. But none of us know what a piece is saying, until we interpret it for the first time, with visual art. And that's why I go to visual art, too, like, the same way you think the best visual artists should be reading, right? 

Krista Franklin: Right. 

Danez Smith: I do the same thing, you know, poets, we engage so much with the image that I'm just, like, if you're not actually looking at images and understanding what it is to, like, actually view a thing, then I don't know if you can describe it in words either. I don't think you can capture it. And I know when I haven't looked at enough, I struggle with my writing.

Franny Choi: Hmmm.

Danez Smith: Cause I love seeing how other people see, and, like, how did you choose, why did you choose to angle that. What light did you choose to play with. Why did you show me that color. Why did you put that thing on that thing, you know, why did you juxtapose these two objects in that way. And that for me then lets me know, like, oh, when I'm writing, my eye on the pin isn’t big enough. Thank God for the internet, that I just click through certain things. It’s like a little.. buffet!

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: It's lovely that I come back, and I have, like, all these wild things I've seen, that now I get to, like, tell my poems about. You know?

Franny Choi: Hmmm!

Krista Franklin: That's beautiful. 

Franny Choi: Yeah. I also feel like when I'm reading poetry as, like, the main kind of art that I'm consuming, then I just get other people's voices in my head. But, like, if you're consuming a lot of art that's, like, not in your medium, then those voices can't interrupt you. They can tell you about your own voice, you know?

Krista Franklin: Right.

Danez Smith: Hmm.

Franny Choi: (SILENCE)

Krista Franklin: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) More museums I guess. Or Instagram. 

Danez Smith: Speaking of museums, of exhibits, you have a new show that's coming up. So what’s that show focusing around? What’s it called? What’s it looking like? What it do? (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: I'm excited about this show. It's called “Quiet Storm.”

Danez Smith: Wait, like the radio show?

Krista Franklin: Yeah.

Danez Smith: Yeah! 

Danez Smith and Krista Franklin: (SINGING) Quiet storm.. 

Franny Choi: My god…

Danez Smith: You are listening to…

Krista Franklin: Yeah, this is where you get your sexy voice on. Hey! Hey sexy voice.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: So it’s a two-person show, my work alongside my friend and fellow artist’s, Ayanah Moor.

Danez Smith: Hi, Ayanah!

Krista Franklin: And so of course, the name is familiar in our lexicon of understanding of, you know, R&B music, and, like, late night, you know, sexy time... you know, music. 

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: But we also wanted to kind of crack open, you know, some other, more poetic interpretations of what that could be. You know, I'm not sure if that translates literally in the work, you know, I'm not sure if you can go into it and maybe, like, oh yeah, this, this and this, and point to specific things that make you think of the term Quiet Storm. But we were really thinking a lot about black upward mobility, we were thinking a lot about, you know, the queering of that. We were thinking a lot about, of course, music, you know, because both of us love music. So just thinking about the ways the kind of music plays out in your mind, how certain figures in music play out. Black romance, you know, thinking a lot about love... Which is a constant theme of my work, you know, I’m always, always doing some kind of ruminations on love.

Danez Smith: Oh, what was it, your chapbook that blew my mind. “Study on Love & Black Body.”

Krista Franklin: Yes. Yes, exactly. So, I mean that's, like, a big theme, you know, in my work, in my practice. I'm excited about the show coming up. I'm not sure yet what it’s saying, because it's not in the space yet, all of the work, you know, I don't think, for me anyway, I don't fully understand what a show is doing until it's actually up on the walls. And I have some time to think about it as a whole. You know? I'm engaged and really excited though about how Ayanah’s work and my work are in conversation with one another. So I'm looking forward to seeing, like, what are some visual echoes and, you know, reverberations that occur. And also, like, what are the pieces trying to tell us. Just like with a poem, like, you set out to say something. But sometimes the poem reveals to you what it actually wants to say. You know? And I think visual art is very much like that too, like, you think that you've made something that says something, and then you're, like, oh that’s saying something altogether different. Shit! I didn’t anticipate that!

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: You know, and you gotta reconcile. You know what I mean? You gotta reconcile that. You know, and integrate it. 

Danez Smith: I did it. Okay, right. 

Krista Franklin: Right! I made that, I think? (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: Or it made itself and I was just there.

Danez Smith: Yeah. Yeah.

Krista Franklin: So, um…

Franny Choi: Can you talk about, maybe, a poem or a piece of art that surprised you when… afterward?

Krista Franklin: Yeah. My work always surprises me. A lot of people are familiar with the piece Transatlantic Turntable-ism. They know that as, like, my signature, one of my signature pieces, you know, and that’s the one with the little kid that's, like, hovering over … gigantically hovering over the world and, like, moving this record across the space. Between earth and water, you know, Transatlantic passages and voyages, right, and there is this kind of musical motif that is, you know, in the center of it. And…. when I made it, I don't think I actually realized that the way I collaged it was like a flag. Somebody was talking about it, you know, like, years after I had made it and they were, like, yeah, because, you know, it looks like a flag, and I was like what!? I was like, oh, shit. 

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) I made a flag?

Krista Franklin: I made a flag! (LAUGHING) There is an American flag in this piece. You know what I mean? 

Franny Choi: Do you think it was, like, a subconscious thing? 

Krista Franklin: For sure. I definitely think it was subconscious. You know, because I was really thinking a lot about the travelling from the old world to the new. And I was thinking a lot about slavery, just voyages, you know, and in particular the voyage from the Old World to the New World. You know what I mean? And so I think that my brain just started ticking away, and composing what it thought it should. So that happens a lot. I see things inside of the collages that I didn't necessarily intend to make, but that emerged in the process. 

Franny Choi: That’s such a strange feeling to, like…. It's almost like having a dream and being, like, a part of my brain made that dream. But, like, that part of my brain isn't really, like, my conscious brain, like, it's, like, a weird experience. 

Krista Franklin: It is a weird experience. I mean, I live in that a lot though. Even with my writing sometimes. You know, I'm sure that you all have had this experience too, where you write something and then years later you encounter it and you’re like, when did I write that? 

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) Me?

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) What’s that called? It’s called The Unknown Self. Right, so it's, like, four sections of the self, and there's like, what is it, like, your public self…

Franny Choi: I just know the unknown self.

Danez Smith: There’s the you that everybody else sees, there is the you that only you know, there is the you that you are with people you are intimate with, and then there’s the you that you don’t even know.

Franny Choi: It’s like the sun, your rising sun…

Krista Franklin: That’s immediately what I was thinking about.

Danez Smith: There we go, there we go.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: Ascendant, right? Your sun rising, your moon...you id.

Danez Smith: So this is like, your shadow of the moon. I think a lot of artists, like, we come… to know a part of you that is most unaware of what’s going on, but is also a lot of the truer self. Or it’s, like, the line after the line that came into your head. You know? There is always, like, the line that you went to the computer for, but then that next part is the part that's still discovering...like, sort of is buried in… y’all know his name.

Franny Choi: And we have to learn to, like, trust it. But maybe only to a certain extent.

Danez Smith: Well, you gotta, like, learn how to stroke it too.

Franny Choi: Like, you don’t want to let it drive all the time.

Danez Smith: No, no, no, no, no.

Franny Choi: Maybe the unknown self is in the passenger seat with the GPS and sometimes you listen to it, and sometimes not. (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) I don’t know, I don’t know. I think it’s interesting where you go when you’re able to touch it for a long time. Like, I did a residency at the Malaya Colony, where I was in the woods for a month, you know. Not caring about deodorant or shaving my face. And even though I looked like…

Franny Choi: And they’ve written about trees ever since….

Danez Smith: Yeah, I have written about trees ever since.. 

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) 

Danez Smith: But the, like, the way into surprising myself, by the end of that was a lot easier. The poems I wrote towards the end of that, required less editing. Cause I spent more time in the space where I was just, like, on autopilot. Which I think is, like, my, most special mode, where I’m not even second-guessing it, I’m just, like, yeah, that’s the word, that’s the letter, that’s the sentence… And then I need to sit back at the end and, like, OK, cool. When I’m not able to touch that mind, then I’m not able to get to the poem, because I’m second guessing every other word. You know? Cause I’m thinking too strategically about where I want to go. 

Franny Choi: That’s real.

Krista Franklin: Was it hard to reintegrate into society after you had that time?

Danez Smith: Yes! Extremely hard. (LAUGHING) Because I was, like, all these people… I have to, like, have conversations again, like, I have to, like, remember what I'm supposed to do with this language that I've been playing around with. Have you ever been to any residencies like that? And what’s your experience? Or even have you ever been able to touch that mind for a long time and have to…

Krista Franklin: That’s my whole life. 

Danez Smith: Yeah? (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) 

Krista Franklin: Yeah, so I’m thinking, I can’t say too much about that, because…

Danez Smith: It’s too real.

Krista Franklin: I follow that instinct all the time. Yeah. It's hard. It's hard to reintegrate. You know what I mean? But I go through periods of that, because I spend a lot of time by myself in general. You know? I tend to be kind of isolated. So coming out in the public everyday for me is, like… What face am I supposed to wear today?

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: What mask goes up when I’m going out this morning? What am I protecting? Yeah, but I’m constantly trying to find those spaces where you know that your interior self, your instinctual self, is leading, is guiding you on the right path. Like, it's going to send you down some crazy-ass streets and some weird choices. But at the end of it, you're going to be like, oh, I see why. Cause it transformed me in this particular way. Falling in love with that person, or making this particular kind of choice felt like it was wrong, but who I am now is directly related to that experience. And so that plays out in the artwork as well. You know, being a bit of a risk taker. Y You know, like, my spiritual circle is pretty strong. You know what I mean? They got my back. Even when I’m doing some off-brand shit.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: But, umm…

Franny Choi: I love what you said about the way making certain work changes you, because I think we maybe don't talk very often as artists and as writers about how the process of creating…. the kind of effect that it has on us. You don't just make the poem, the poem is also, like, making you as a result, you know, slowly. 

Krista Franklin: We’re co-creating, you know, the pieces that we make, write, whatever it is we're engaged in, we're in co-creation with that. 

Franny Choi: That’s such a…

Krista Franklin: You know what I mean? Like, we're not, like... sometimes we get on this God-complex type thing. I mean, artists are big for that, I mean, our egos are quite fairly…

Danez Smith: What ego? (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: You’re right, I had an ego check in the car this morning, I was like, Danez...you’re getting too big for your britches. (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: I think it’s good to talk with the ego in that way. You know what I mean? And also, you know, people are always, like, they don't want people to be self-confident. I think people should be self-confident, you should know you are a God, you know what I’m saying? That you’re making shit, you had the power, you have the power of your own make-belief. You know, you’re supposed to walk around like that. Don’t feel all disempowered, like, feel confident in who you are and what your capabilities are, you know what I'm saying? 

Danez Smith: This is some PSA…

Krista Franklin: You are, like, divinely made.

Danez Smith: This is true! Because I tell myself all the time that every other medium of artist needs to have the permission that rappers have. To just, like…

Krista Franklin: Exactly.

Franny Choi: Ooooh, exactly.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: And to know, right, that that’s also… when you're talking about, like, the ego, you know, the unknown self, right, like, you're also all this other stuff too. You know? You can be vulnerable and you can be, you know, insecure sometimes and you can be…. We have to make room for all of it. But I don't feel, like, you know, people need to be walking around, like, I'm just so humble that, like, you know, I made this piece. You know that piece was bomb.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) 

Krista Franklin: Stop playing these games. Pretend to, like, that shit wasn’t dope. You know what I’m saying? Cause you know it was! Everybody said it is, we all said it was, stop acting….

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: That’s why you read it.

Krista Franklin: Right! So stop playing these games. Being coy, stop trying to be so damn coy. You know? But I feel like we are in co-creation, you know, with these things that we make and… they’re making us as much as we’re making them. It’s probably everywhere in the world, but you know, Chicago was where I spend the most of my time. So, you know, a big question here with people is, you know, what are you working on. You know what I mean? You know, sometimes I'm in the mood to have that conversation and sometimes I'm not. But my generalized response right now to that is: I'm working on myself. And the work that you see, that I showed you, you know, in the form of these collages or these handmade paper pieces, or these writings that I'm reading in public…. those are byproducts of my actual life. Those are byproducts of what I'm really developing, which is me. You know what I’m saying?

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) 

Krista Franklin: So…. Which is why sometimes I feel so disconnected from it, you know, I'm sure all writers have this thing when you see your name in print. I have this thing where I see my name in print and I have no idea who that person is. Sometimes I just stare at the name, like, that's my name. What is it doing on this piece of paper? (LAUGHING) Like, who printed my name?

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: Who is this person? That’s how disconnected I feel sometimes, you know what I mean? 

Franny Choi: From the work?

Krista Franklin: From the work. And so I have to do a lot of work around that too, you know. But yeah, just, like, we are in co-creation. The work is transforming us, we're transforming the work, we're the work. 

Danez Smith: And things are calling towards us. You know? That’s, like, very much a center of my understanding of Afrofuturist creation, right, is, like, I am making this and by making this I am either, A, like, archiving already what's going on and B, I'm, like, calling something else into the canon that will become the art… You know, I’m causing down the stream, you know? The first time I think I had to think about Afrofuturism I said your name. Cause the article was, like, this is Afrofuturism, it’s the Afrofuturistic art, it was that, oh, I love that collage you made, like, that hot pink that you stole from the future. (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: I know exactly which one you are talking about. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: I love that attitude, and I’m trying to, like, have more of that intentional approach to poetry where it's, like, through the act of archiving we are also, like, this is a document as much as it is a blueprint, you know, as spanning both ways at a time. And that kind of shit.

Franny Choi: Both historical and imaginative. That’s absolutely you, Krista. 

Krista Franklin: Thank you, first of all, for saying that, and, you know, for putting my life and my work into that context, you know, I mean, I feel, like, I spent a lot of time looking back in order to clearly see the present. You know, and the present being, like, a projection of the possibilities of the future, you know what I mean. In the same way I feel like Octavia Butler did that a lot. You know, she was, like, a master of that, you know, like, she would just be writing about actually what was happening right then in time, but you know, she just spun it a little bit…. And so you think that you're talking about something in the future which is actually, like, happening right now. You know what I mean? I remember reading “Parable of the Sower” when it first came out in the 90s, I was an undergraduate and I read that book and I was, like, terrified. 

Franny Choi: Oh my god. It was bananas.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: I thought I this is actually... we're working up to this right now. Like, I felt like all of that could have jumped off the next day. Do you know what I mean?

Franny Choi: Yeah!

Krista Franklin: How do y’all feel now about that book?

Franny Choi: I feel, in “Parable of the Sower” there is like, a political figure that says “Make America Great Again.”

Krista Franklin: Exactly. And people are just tripping... 

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: … are tripping that she called that. Do you know what I mean? But I definitely think that she was involved in… the work of the current time. And we spun it as some future shit, but it was, like, actually writing about this, right. So, like, the piece that you talked about, Do Androids Dream of People or Sheep, is the name of the title, like, I was thinking about that…

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: That title is me tipping my hat to a different writer too, like, the Blade Runner guy, that’s the original title of the book by Philip K. Dick, is “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.” 

Danez Smith: Oh, OK.

Krista Franklin: But I also, you know, was just thinking about how women, you know, in general or black women in particular, you know, are machine-like in our society, you know, how we are perceived by people around us, you know, our interiority is kinda exposed, you know. Our inner workings are kinda exposed, people are constantly trying to project things on us or make us, like, puppets for their little, you know, whatever you're trying to do, their agendas, you know, like, I was thinking a lot about that when I made that piece. You know? And I think about that a lot with the android as a motif, like, think about androids as slaves, I think about androids… 

Danez Smith: Yeah. Y’all two should talk. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: Yeah. I think about this stuff a lot. 

Krista Franklin: I think about androids all the time. I love robots. 

Franny Choi: Yeah, me too… (LAUGHING) 

Krista Franklin: And, you know, the idea of, like, robots, androids, makes me really mistrustful of human beings. We've seen how humans treat humans.

Franny Choi: So now…

Krista Franklin: Can you imagine how you would treat something that looked like a human, that wasn’t? Or that they thought wasn’t? That’s scary. 

Franny Choi: It’s super terrifying. 

Krista Franklin: That’s scary. You know what I mean?

Franny Choi: Yeah. I also recently saw a short documentary about “real dolls.” Do you know about these?

Krista Franklin: Yeah.

Danez Smith: Oooooh! Yes.

Franny Choi: They’re sex dolls, but they’re developing A.I. for them. I mean, I’m gonna use the word primitive now, I feel a lot of feelings about that that are primitive, but now there is a whole trend to follow...

Krista Franklin: Yeah, you can do that later. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: ... poems to write.

Krista Franklin: Yeah, there’s a book, there’s a book there. (LAUGHING) 

Danez Smith: Don’t you hate that, we see a series just show up, I got, like eight poems. 

Franny Choi: I got work to do!

Danez Smith: So I got my chapbook… (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) But yeah, those are a bunch of crazy…

Krista Franklin: They’re weird. I’ve seen lots of different kinds of videos of them, like, developing, you know, just animatronics and, you know, they're just developing all of this... different kinds of software and machinery that looks human and is thinking, and I'm just, like, do you guys know what you’re doing?

Franny Choi: Well, I think the answer is no. That's the thing. They don't. The person who is conducting this interview was, like, don't you think that… And he was, like…. no. 

Krista Franklin: And she was, like, but what if… and he was, like, oh we don't really think about that. We're just making robots for sex.

Danez Smith: You’re not just making robots for sex. You're making our end. You know, God made humans and we tripped out on him.

Krista Franklin: (APPLAUSE) Yo! This is why those stories are so valuable. You know what I’m saying? People don’t listen to the stories, you know. They get caught up in, like, whether or not the story is true or who wrote the story and when did the story get made and all this other bullshit. Listen to the story, the moral of the story is: stop fucking with shit! 

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re going to cause some really upsetting things to occur in your life or in the lives of other people.

Danez Smith: It's very dangerous art, right. Poems ain’t sentient, right, and that’s where they stop, and that’s where they end.

Krista Franklin: Right.

Franny Choi: Right.

Krista Franklin: Scary.

Franny Choi: I did not…

Danez Smith: I knew you were about to say that, like, are poems sentient? 

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) Let’s ask Krista that question, are poems sentient?

Danez Smith: Is art sentient?

Krista Franklin: Oooof! I mean…

Danez Smith: No. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: I didn’t ask you! (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: My mind is going like your mind, my mind is going in all directions. Are they? Are poems sentient?

Danez Smith: I guess that’s maybe that I know... OK, I think in the process of writing them they are. Something in us or in the world that is the poem that is waiting to be written, like, makes you to a certain extent... is sentient enough to, like, make you, like, sort of follow it. 

Franny Choi: But what about the thing that happens after you make it, and then you realize something was there that you didn't know was there?

Danez Smith: That's also, like, a looking of it. And I think there's also, like, a second life I think with poems too. There's also another life that happens when you perform it, too. You know, because there is also a new discovery that happens in that way, when you read it out loud. Are the poems and that thing that I published that I never read aloud, those poems are kind of dead. Krista Franklin: Interesting.

Danez Smith: Just left to read. Or they are alive only in the moment where they are engaged with, maybe, with the reader.

Franny Choi: I can get down with that. But I think, like, making, like, a piece of art, like, a poem that then, like, is, like, living in people's brains…

Krista Franklin: And spaces.

Franny Choi: And spaces. And, like, making a program that then, like, goes off and, like, interacts with people, and, like, is maybe alive… Like, making, like, a child that then goes off and, like, has a life, like, those are not completely unrelated.

Krista Franklin: No, they’re not. I agree.

Danez Smith: OK, OK, I vibe. I agree.

Franny Choi: And I don’t know if that means that, like, you know, poems should have the civil rights accorded to people with sentience… (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: I don't know if I agree with that.

Krista Franklin: I don’t think I would go that far.

Danez Smith: No, no. 

Franny Choi: But, yeah. (LAUGHING) I think, like, creating consciousness, like, little bits of consciousness.... 

Krista Franklin: I agree. 

Franny Choi: Maybe?

Krista Franklin: I agree.

Danez Smith: Hmm.

Krista Franklin: Yes. But you know, I believe stones are alive, and I believe, you know, a lot of stuff is alive that people wouldn’t think of as alive. You know what I mean? 

Franny Choi: There is this hot new theory in neuroscience, measuring consciousness on this massive spectrum, and so posits that every material thing, every, like, piece of matter has some tiny element of consciousness, down to, like, subatomic particles. Or it posits that, like, you can measure consciousness based on how much information is being integrated. So, like, plants have to understand information in certain ways, not on as much of a level perhaps—maybe—as humans.

Krista Franklin: Right. 

Franny Choi: But they're doing it on some level. And so you could say, like, that plant has, like, this much consciousness. 

Krista Franklin: Yes. 

Franny Choi: You know? 

Krista Franklin: Yes. I mean, I don't know either, because people say ‘talk to your plants’ all the time, and they grow, and they do!

Danez Smith: True.

Franny Choi: Do they actually, though?

Danez Smith: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Have you ever seen most things or, like, positively or negatively… 

Krista Franklin: They respond to it. 

Franny Choi: No, really?

Krista Franklin: They do. 

Danez Smith: Yeah, like, a plant, when you say, like, I love you, like, it will grow and flourish, or, like you say, I hate you, it will wither.

Krista Franklin: Yeah, I’m very intrigued by that. I'm intrigued by, like, energy. Whether or not these things can be quantified or scientifically proven means very little to me. You know, especially when you're a person of color, like, you know, science is real tricky. People have tried to use science to determine that we're not human. You know what I’m saying? So, you know, people can't trot out their little experiments, I’m like, that’s cool. I'm believe what I wanna believe when it comes to that shit. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: I think I’ve been, lately, both distrustful of science in certain ways and also, like, feeling, like, a need to defend it in this political moment where, you know, scientists are saying these things and people are, like...mweh, whatever! I just did a hair flip, for those of you listening.

Krista Franklin: That’s what she did. It was a really good one. 

Franny Choi: I think when I do a hair flip I pretend it’s, like, really heavy for some reason, I’m like, wooof.

Krista Franklin: It’s got some wait on it. 

Franny Choi: But anyway, yeah, I mean, I feel like we're living in this sort of, like, anti intellectual climate and I feel both of those pulls at once.

Krista Franklin: And I think that’s good! To me that’s balance, you know, you should be a little suspect and also, you know, advocating for it. You know, I advocate for people’s rights to do a lot of shit that I don’t think they should be doing. You know what I mean? Like, you really shouldn’t, but… if you want to, boy, I want you to do it. 

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: Do you know what I’m saying? Because you’re gonna find out on your own whether or not that works out for you. 

Danez Smith: Uh-huh.

Franny Choi: Uh-huh. 

(MUSIC)

Franny Choi: Every episode we ask our guest to bring in a poem that they’ve written. That they’d like to share with us on an episode of VS. Krista, do you have a poem that you’ve brought in for us?

Krista Franklin: I do have a poem that I brought in today. 

Danez Smith: Woo!

Krista Franklin: Umm...I haven’t read this publicly yet. 

Danez Smith: Premier, premier, premier! (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) 

Krista Franklin: This is why I cannot come out of my house.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) 

Krista Franklin: So… cause the foolishness, that is. So, I’ll give a little background about this. About this poem. Typically, I don't do that. But I feel like this poem is so strange that I'm going to try and give it a little context. The Marie that’s in the title is Marie Laveau. And Marie Laveau... OK, so Marie Laveau was a woman who is known in history for being…. there are so many words that come into my mind, you know? Witch. 

Danez Smith: A witch.

Krista Franklin: Yeah, witch is the first thing that comes into my mind. 

Franny Choi: OK, OK, OK.

Krista Franklin: She was a Creole woman and she was very powerful in New Orleans during her day. There's a lot of mythology around her. She is a woman who worked a lot of magic and she had a lot of influence over people, you know, white and black, you know, free people and slaves. And she was considered to be very dangerous. So I read a book many many years ago about her, and this book was kind of telling at the beginning just different legends about her, you know. One of the legends that stood out in my mind was… she would have these sessions where she would gather the slaves together in Congo Square and they would do ritual, you know, where they basically meet on a Sunday night, you know. So for example, you know, just, like, there are drums and… you know, a church session, essentially. For the most part that was OK. Unless it started getting a little bit too frenzied and then people started getting nervous, right. So there was this story about a cop, you know, the cops were trying to break it up. And she made him get down on his knees and bark like a dog. She did a spell on him. 

Danez Smith: Hmm.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: This was one of the stories… she basically put him in a trance. So that story I love so much, you know, I mean, whether it happened or not is, you know, legend. And you know it’s all legend. But in light of, you know, we're all aware of the historical moment that we’re in, you know, around people of color and the police. That this is something that's not new. I've been thinking a lot about just how long that's been going on historically, and really trying to work through in my mind ways of resistance, ways that we have resisted, you know, over time. And so... also, you know, thinking about the future, the past, the present, all in the same kind of spaces and moments, right, I’m really trying as a writer to develop a language for a system of things that I used to talk about the spirit world. Because it's always been a part of my life and very heavy, like, serious, real, you know, legitimate part of my life. And so finding language to talk about it, is one of the things that I'm kind of engaged in right now. So this poem is doing a little bit of that work, like, it's retelling that story in a way, but it's also me kind of grappling with time. You know, and how things don't change, you know, and how things do change and what can we take from what we've known from other people in the past to use now, to help us, you know. So that's kind of the the crux of this poem, is what I’m gonna say. It’s called “Marie Says Bow Down.” 

 

What I long for is the sound of the drums,

the hollow pounding of calloused palms

pinking against the dry hide of sacrifice.

It's shocking to think about time rolling back,

planet spinning retrograde,

the fingertips of those women, men,

scarred, thick skin tough as cured jerky

hanging in the smokehouse. I rub my

forefinger against my thumb and remember

the years between us. Try to imagine their hands

as soft as mine. When would that be.

How am I in all the years in between.

Imagine, they held each other's names

in their mouths like ripe cherries,

their songs breaking the sun down to dusk.

Those hands, the thick skin of sacrifice, pounding.

The taut fur of a skinned thing, they were,

skinned things remembering a time

of togetherness, notes scored in blood.

I need you to remember with me,

the drums, their skin, their voices breaking

the crystal fragile nerves of their owners,

captors, fathers, breaking the veil,

conjuring frenzy in infected imaginations.

What year is this? Do you know how long

the cops have been called?

My love, before there were phones.

Can you imagine? Even then, when

those tender names were little more

than numbers and decimal points

in leather-bound ledgers that rested

on a desk in the den. The only thing

that fuels me here is imagination.

I stand at the gates, a spectre there,

watch her in all white. The officer

insists she break it up. The drums,

the song, the black mass of

spirit thick in the heat. I need you

to imagine with me. The heat,

his pinking face wet, his nerves

fragile as Waterford, her

in all white haze, her

free woman hands, smooth and soft as mine,

lifting lightly like the wand of a conductor

standing before a symphony. His uniform

stiff, blue, his pink face reddening

like the sun at dusk, his knees

buckling under her mouth and incantation,

his thoughts a murder of crows, a small wave of rejection,

her tongue an ocean of ancestors spelling him into animal,

into all fours, into all bark, no bite.

Imagine, that moment, the drum, the song, his woof.

Danez Smith: (SHRIEKING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) 

Krista Franklin: Oh shit. 

Danez Smith: (TAPPING THE TABLE, SCREAMING) 

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) That is so good.

Danez Smith: (A LITTLE BIT LOSING IT) That poem is so sillily good. 

Krista Franklin: Thank you, guys. 

Franny Choi: Guys…

Danez Smith: Oooh. Y’all, I love, like, cause the form was, like literally doing the same thing of, like, pulling past and present together. (HOWL)

Krista Franklin: That was the challenge, that was the challenge that I've been trying to, like, do, you know. Also to bring in, like, the animal world, the natural world, you know, like, that sensing a thing, you know, like, is the poem alive? Is this microphone alive? I'm trying to, like, really grapple with a lot of that right now in my work. You know what I mean? And it’s hard, because, you know, I wanna be as clear as possible with my reader, like, if I hadn't set the context for that poem up, it's going to be really abstract. You know what I’m saying? Like, I recognize that, like, if you’re not familiar with who Marie Laveau is, even the title “Bow Down” is also a me tipping my hat to Beyoncé, right, I’m grappling with all of that, you know. And it's because we don't really have a context for any of it. An agreed upon context. It is hard to write it. You know, like, me thinking about.. you know, how am I? You know? Like, I think about the shit all the time, like, how in the hell did I get here. I come from, like, a people, partially, who were brought here in chains. That's part of the DNA. But the other part of the DNA is something else altogether, and I'm grappling with that too. You know what I mean? And, like, there’s some white folks in my family. You know what I mean? How did they get there? How did I come from these people with calloused hands, and I like to put 75 layers of cocoa butter on my hands. (LAUGHING) And my hands are soft because I don't do a lot of hard labor. But my grandmother, you know, was picking tobacco in the Carolinas with my uncle when he was a baby, you know, so, like, thinking about that collapsing time and really seeing myself, my body, my life, as a collapsing of all of that coming together, you know, and where I am now. I'm really trying to think about that. And looking at the ancestors to help, because…

Danez Smith: We need them. 

Krista Franklin: Look, I mean seriously I'm, like, how can I drum them up? And I love them, you know what I mean? Because, I mean, I think we get into this kind of, like, binary thinking, right. What happens when we bring all that together? What happens if I am slave and slave master at the same time? Which I am.

Danez Smith: Woo!

Krista Franklin: And so, once you really get into that shit, you realize… you got to spend some time by yourself and pray. (LAUGHING) Or whatever it is that you do, you know what I’m saying? Because you realize that you’re, like, the victim and the master. Those are just some of the things that I'm working through. But just trying to relive…

Franny Choi: Just casual question.

FK: Just casual questions. Remix history, the present, the past, the future…

Danez Smith: A little something.

FK: The babies coming and all that…

Danez Smith: Thank you so much for that poem.

Franny Choi: Yeah, that was … that was incredible.

(MUSIC)

Danez Smith: So every episode we ask our poet our guests to bring in a poet that is in their corner, so somebody who is squirting the water in your mouth, or maybe you are squirting the water in theirs, fight the good fight. So who is in your corner this whole week, Ms Krista Franklin?

Krista Franklin: I have a poem by Jacob Saenz….

Danez Smith: Amen.

Franny Choi: Nice. He's in my corner in real life too, you know, like, we intersect in each other's lives from time to time, and it's always a pleasure. You know, he’s good people and… so I’m gonna read his poem, “The Bachelor Watches “The Bachelor.”” 

Danez Smith: I just read his poem, it’s…

Krista Franklin: ...dope.

Danez Smith: Yes. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: I haven’t read this poem, I’m excited.

Krista Franklin: It’s a good poem!

 

The Bachelor Watches “The Bachelor”

I sit on the couch & witness my life

projected on a screen — I am white

w/a chiseled, dimpled chin & no lips.

I’m a farmer who lives alone in a loft

& not a lowly office worker who lives

w/a roommate in an apartment where

dust balls decorate the floors & walls

& the ceiling rings w/children’s feet

running back & forth like baby bulls.

I am crazy enough to be a contestant

on a show where I’m contractually obligated

to propose to a woman who believes

in a heteronormative, patriarchal

idea of what a family should be.

At the end of every episode, I offer

roses to those I wish to make out w/more

& take out on prepackaged romantic dates

I could never afford on my bachelor budget.

For example: a date in a castle, a glass

slipper prop, a clock winding its way

down to midnight. My date & I sip

champagne, chat & eat, then we dance

to a live orchestra led by a maestro

who wishes he were dead. A giant screen appears

& plays a clip of a live-action Cinderella movie

w/Prince Charming played by an actor

I’ve seen slaughter & behead a soldier

like clipping the head off a rose.

In real life, my dates consist of dinner

at Burger King where we dine on chicken

fries & don paper crowns for a royal feel.

On another show date, I take two women into South

Dakota where we fly over the heads of white

slave owners carved into a sacred Native mountain.

At the end of the date, I offer no roses to either

woman & abandon them on a canopied bed

in the middle of the Badlands & take off

in a helicopter to provide the cameras

an aerial view of wilderness & despair.

At the end of the show, I find myself proposing

to a fertility nurse in a barn made to look

like a chapel & not the place where I raised

my first horse, fucked my first goat. Here,

I will milk the cows for our future offspring

to drink straight from the teat like I did as a kid.

The show ends & I rise from the couch

& walk into the kitchen. On bended knee,

I reach for a bottle of beer deep

in the back of the fridge, pop the top

like a question & take a swig, cold

& crisp once it hits my full lips.

 

(MUSIC)

Danez Smith: So it is time for everybody's favorite game, This vs. That. Krista, we are going to give you two things or people, you are gonna tell us who would win in a fight. But this particular one, I just imagine is a fair fight, it is agreed upon and it is probably for charity. 

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: (LAUGHING) It’s agreed upon?

Danez Smith: It is, it’s going towards, eh, Black Girls Code.

Krista Franklin: OK.

Danez Smith: Yeah, yeah.

Krista Franklin: Cool. That’s cute. 

Danez Smith: So who would win in a fight, Octavia Butler vs. Marie Laveau.

(CHIME)

Krista Franklin: Ooh, ancestors, forgive me.

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: Let’s get that out of the way. (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: Umm…

Danez Smith: Cause they would actually fight together.

Krista Franklin: Right, they would actually fight together… What… So I’m thinking about a lot of stuff, I’m thinking about… Octavia being a woman of science, right, and a woman who really was basing things on things that could be scientifically proven, right, and then I was thinking of a woman, a human being who really called upon forces that were beyond what people would normally think are present. The seen world and the unseen world, you know what I mean, like, so it’s like science but it’s also about spirituality, which has its own science to it as well… Alchemy versus, like, you know, chemistry. That’s tough though, that’s really… it would be a close match. It would be a very close match. 

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) It would.

Krista Franklin: But I think that the winner that would prevail would be Marie Laveau.

Danez Smith: Amen.

Franny Choi: I think, I think, I agree with that.

Krista Franklin: Yeah, yeah. Because she has more at her disposal, you know what I mean? Her belief systems, and, like, there is just more that she could call upon.

Danez Smith: Amen. 

Krista Franklin: But there's a lot of extra power you could call upon, too.

Danez Smith: There is.

Krista Franklin: Supernatural power! 

Danez Smith: Yeah. You just can't write what you want and then wait for it to happen. 

Krista Franklin: No, you’re gonna have to put it to work. (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) We need the current moment.

Krista Franklin: Yeah, you testing it, you testing it. 

Danez Smith: This has been a delight. Thank you so much for coming in, Krista.

Krista Franklin: Thank you guys for inviting me.

Danez Smith: Where can people find you, if they want to know more?

Krista Franklin: kristafranklin.com ...

Danez Smith: Amen

Krista Franklin: Starts with K, ends in A, Franklin as in Benjamin or … Aretha, depending on your orientation to the world. 

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Krista Franklin: Yeah, and I just wanna say too, like, I am so happy to be here with you too.

Danez Smith: Ooooh!

Franny Choi: Oooh!

Krista Franklin: I have been, you know, really just tracking in my own way both of your progress, you know, as writers, and the work that you're constantly involved in, your collectives, and you know, just everything that you guys are really, like, doing, the work that you're putting in. So I just wanted to publicly acknowledge that.

Franny Choi: God, I’m getting so many feelings.

Krista Franklin: Like, I am so impressed in that you all are keeping me on my toes as a writer, as a thinker, as a performer, as an artist. You’re keeping me sharp, because something's happening and I can't see what it is, but it's happening and so just keep doing what y’all are doing, cause that's good. 

Franny Choi: God.

Krista Franklin: I'm just appreciative of your presence in the world. 

Danez Smith: That means a lot!

Franny Choi: It means so much.

Danez Smith: I look up to you as, like, a person, like, how you teach and mentor folks, and as a creator, and all this different stuff, and I think you, like, everybody I know, including myself, because I know me, like, holds you in such a high esteem because you are just, like, sort of, like, I think what a lot of us are, like, working to be, like, like, funky, fresh, good adult.

Krista Franklin: Thanks, guys!

Danez Smith: Who makes important and good and, like, fun and interesting work. 

Krista Franklin: Appreciate it.

Danez Smith: Thank you so much for that, Krista. 

Krista Franklin: Thank you. Thanks for inviting me. 

(MUSIC)

Franny Choi: Krista Franklin is, like, the best teacher I’ve ever had. 

Danez Smith: She is! That conversation just whizzed all over the place just, like, one of her poems, we went into time, out of time, in the body, out of the body, out of the body, in the self, to the unknown…

Franny Choi: (MOVIE WHISPER) ...the unknown self…

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) It went everywhere...she's like Ms Frizzle.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) Yeah!

Danez Smith: She’s just a magic school bus of a person, you know? (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: OK, OK, OK, if you….were the substitute teacher… (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) in Ms Frizzle’s class?

Danez Smith: ... where would you drive the bus that day?

Franny Choi: Straight into the hard of the revolution. (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: No, I don't know what that means, I just … I thought it may sound kind of pretty. 

Danez Smith: It did. It was very on-brand.

Franny Choi: Where would you drive the magic school bus?

Danez Smith: I would take the li’l motherfuckers and drive all of them sans permission slips into the inside of, like, a black hole. And then just leave ‘em there and whoever made it back can come to fifth grade. 

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: That’s my general strategy. That's also, like, my strategy for childrearing, you know…

Franny Choi: Oh my god, just drop ‘em in the black hole.

Danez Smith: Once they’re, like, verbal and walking, I just drop ‘em in, like, the woods and if you make it back home, you can go to college.

Franny Choi: That’s, like, very ancient Greek of you, for some reason.

Danez Smith: Uh-huh, like my people Greek.

Franny Choi: No, they’re not.

Danez Smith: Yeah they are!

Franny Choi: OK.

Danez Smith: There’s plenty of Greek yogurt in my house. 

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: Alright, so, let’s get out of here, let's do some thankie thankies, and …

Franny Choi: Yeah, we all have people to thank per the usual.

Danez Smith: I would like to thank… Hilary Duff. Yeah, I just feel, like, you know, Hilary Duff has, like, done a lot of the culture. I don't know we'd necessarily be where we are today without the Duff and everything she gave us in those prime Disney moments. I mean, where would you be without Hilary Duff, huh? Where would America be? Make America Duff Again. OK?

Franny Choi: Oh my god.

Danez Smith: That’s what I gotta say today.

Franny Choi: Cannot send you. Umm, I would like to thank both Lindsay Lohans, American and British Lindsay Lohan, and the iconic and influential film of our time, the Parent Trap.

Danez Smith: Amen. Not to be confused with It Takes Two, with the Olsen Twins, which I thought of for a very long time… anyways! We also would like to thank Ydalmi Noriega and Elizabeth Burke-Dain from the Poetry Foundation, also The Poetry Foundation, Postloudness… and our producer Daniel Kisslinger…

Franny Choi: And of course our guest Krista Franklin, thank you so much for coming in. And that wraps up our first season of VS The Podcast…

Danez Smith: (WHISPERING) Our first season… That’s crazy!

Franny Choi: Yeah. Thank you all so much for hanging out with us and listening to us…Thanks to all our guests for coming through, it was awesome, it was awesome to get to talk to all these incredibly brilliant folks. And we hope to see you again in the spring! 

Danez Smith: Yeah! If they don’t cancel us, we will hopefully be there again, same bad time, same bad place…

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: Otherwise, you know, we gotta do a GoFundMe and demand us back. A Change.Org petition to have us back.

Franny Choi: ...to have another season of our ….(LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: We hope y’all have a good winter, we hope y’all stay warm, stay safe..

Franny Choi: Get a sun lamp. 

Danez Smith: Get one, it will change your life. We’ll see you when it’s sunny. (LAUGHING)

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING) 

Danez Smith: Stay warm, stay powerful....

Franny Choi: Good socks… We’ll see you in the spring. 

Danez Smith: See you then, girl.

Franny Choi: Love you, guys! 

Danez Smith: Happy Holidays!

(MUSIC) 

Danez Smith: Chico-cobana-banana-banana-havana-have-fun-a-asana-a-sun-a-and-drink-to-our-friends-ha-go-into-no-po-and-I-see-ya-soon-ta.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: (LAUGHING) Banana-banana-I’m-peel-a-now-get-my-pajamas-na-na-na-na-na-na-we’re-driving-with-panties. LaCroix-LaCroix-LaCroix-LaCroix-LaCroix.

Franny Choi: (LAUGHING)

Danez Smith: They-come-da-bois-making-a-voice-see-you-picked-you-up-on-the-voice. Adam-Lambert… Adam Lambert? That’s not the voice. That’s… I don’t know about Adam Lambert...zha-zha-zham-I’m-about-the-skirt-zha-zha-zham-I’m about-the-skirt. 

Franny Choi: Stop!

Danez Smith: Cool.

VS wraps up its wonderful first season with the gawd Krista Franklin. The squad hops through time, collapses the continuum, shares some laughs, and ends the first season in style. Plus a very special treat at the end of the episode…

More Episodes from VS
Showing 1 to 20 of 27 Podcasts
  1. Tuesday, November 6, 2018

    Jonathan Mendoza vs. The Movement

  2. Tuesday, October 9, 2018

    Jacob Saenz vs. The Block

  3. Tuesday, September 25, 2018

    H. Melt vs. Trans Liberation

  4. Tuesday, August 28, 2018

    Nate Marshall vs. Fear

  5. Tuesday, March 6, 2018

    Tarfia Faizullah vs. Beauty

  6. Tuesday, February 27, 2018

    Knockouts

  7. Tuesday, February 20, 2018

    Franny and Danez's Season 1 Favorite Moments

  8. Tuesday, February 13, 2018

    VS Season 2: Coming March 6!

  9. Tuesday, October 31, 2017

    Kuumba Lynx vs. Transformation

  10. Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    avery r. young vs. the Page

  11. Tuesday, October 3, 2017

    Raych Jackson vs. the Good Books